3d printer for metal 


Learn about the different types of metal 3D printing and their unique processes. From laser-based methods to powder extrusion, explore the diverse techniques shaping the future of metal additive manufacturing.


The Best Metal 3D Printing Materials for Additive Manufacturing: Stainless Steel, Titanium, Aluminum...


Metal 3D printing represents a paradigm shift in additive manufacturing, encompassing various techniques like sintering, welding, or melting metal materials layer by layer. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) are prominent methods utilizing powder-bed fusion technology. While the versatility of metal 3D printing extends to a wide array of metals and alloys, stainless steel, tool steels, titanium, and Inconel® alloys shine as the top choices.


  1. Stainless Steel
  2. Tool Steels (e.g., D2, M2, H13)
  3. Titanium  (e.g., Ti-6Al-4V, Beta 21S, CP-Ti)
  4. Inconel® Alloys (e.g., Inconel® 625, Inconel® 718)
  5. Copper (Copper Alloys)
  6. Cobalt Chrome (Co28Cr6Mo)
  7. Aluminum alloys
  8. Nickel Alloys


This article elucidates the essence of metal 3D printing, its operational mechanisms, and explores the optimal applications of the foremost materials in this innovative realm.


1. Stainless Steel


Stainless steel is a versatile metal known for its durability, strength, and sleek appearance. When 3D printed, stainless steel parts can be as strong or even stronger than those made through traditional methods. The properties of 3D-printed stainless steel vary based on the printing technology used.


Industries like aerospace, automotive, and medical rely on stainless steel parts for their corrosion resistance and high strength. Stainless steel powders come in various grades, with 316L being the most popular. It contains iron, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and carbon, offering good corrosion resistance and ductility.


In 3D printing, stainless steel parts boast smooth surfaces due to the chromium content. Commonly used grades include 316L and 17-4 PH Stainless Steel, offering excellent corrosion resistance and heat treatability. These materials serve a wide array of applications, from manufacturing to assistive technology, providing strength and reliability where needed.


2. Tool Steels


Tool steels, renowned for their resilience and toughness, are iron-based alloys infused with carbon, tungsten, chromium, vanadium, and molybdenum. This unique composition forms carbides, boosting their strength, hardness, and wear resistance, making them ideal candidates for 3D printing in additive manufacturing processes.


These steels play a pivotal role in various manufacturing processes like mold, stamp, and cutting tool production, crucial for additive manufacturing technologies. They offer unmatched durability and reliability, enduring harsh conditions and high temperatures encountered during 3D printing.


In additive manufacturing, where precision and intricate designs are paramount, tool steels like D2, M2, H13, and others shine. Their inherent hardness and resistance to wear make them invaluable for creating molds, stamps, and cutting tools used in 3D printing. Popular choices such as A2, D2, and H13 tool steels excel in precision cutting, molding, or stamping applications, ensuring high-quality and durable 3D-printed components for various industries.


3. Titanium


Titanium is a dominant force in additive manufacturing, prized for its strength and corrosion resistance in medical, aerospace, and automotive sectors. Key titanium materials for metal 3D printing include Ti-6Al-4V, Beta 21S, and CP-Ti. Its strength, lightweight nature, and resistance to heat and chemicals make it ideal for 3D printing, notably Ti-6Al-4V for aerospace applications. Traditional machining of titanium is costly, but additive manufacturing offers a more cost-effective solution.


Titanium's exceptional strength-to-weight ratio makes it invaluable in aerospace, where weight reduction is crucial. Titanium alloys, like Ti64 (Ti-6Al-4V), combine with other metals for enhanced strength. Ti64 is notably stronger yet 40% lighter than 17-4 PH stainless steel. It excels in corrosive, high-temperature settings, making it ideal for industries needing strong yet lightweight materials, such as aerospace and high-performance vehicles.


In summary, titanium alloys like Ti-6Al-4V offer unmatched potential in additive manufacturing, delivering lightweight, robust components across diverse industries.


4. Inconel® Alloys


Inconel® alloys are highly sought-after in additive manufacturing due to their exceptional strength, corrosion resistance, and heat tolerance. Widely used in industries like aerospace, automotive, and chemical processing, these alloys offer outstanding performance in harsh environments. With additive manufacturing techniques, complex geometries can be achieved, making Inconel® alloys ideal for intricate components like jet engine parts, turbine blades, and chemical processing equipment. Their versatility, combined with the benefits of 3D printing, positions Inconel® alloys as indispensable materials in various manufacturing sectors.


Inconel® 625, a nickel-based superalloy, is renowned for its exceptional strength and resistance to heat and corrosion. It finds frequent application in challenging environments such as marine areas and chemical plants, making it ideal for crafting boat parts and heat exchangers.


One cool thing about Inconel® 625 is that it can be used to make parts for really hot places, like inside turbines or in rockets. Regularly, making parts from Inconel is super expensive, but with 3D printing, it becomes much more affordable. This means we can now make important components, like engine parts, that need to withstand high temperatures and not rust out, without breaking the bank.


Inconel® 718 is a highly durable nickel chromium superalloy renowned for its exceptional strength and corrosion resistance, making it an optimal choice for parts subjected to extreme temperatures and mechanical stress. Components built with Inconel 718 undergo stress relief treatment, with the option for solution and aging per AMS 5663 to enhance tensile strength and hardness further. Its primary benefits include remarkable oxidation and corrosion resistance, as well as high tensile, fatigue, creep, and rupture strength.


Common applications for 3D-printed Inconel include jet engine components, gas turbines, cryogenic parts, vessels, pumps, valves, propeller blades, tubing, fittings, and auxiliary propulsion motors.


5. Copper


Copper stands out in additive manufacturing for its exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity, diverging from traditional applications that emphasize mechanical properties. In 3D printing, copper finds utility in diverse components like heat sinks, power distribution elements, and antennae for RF communications. The technology enables engineers to craft intricately designed copper parts, optimizing geometric shapes for enhanced performance at a reduced cost.


While pure copper offers unparalleled conductivity, its compatibility with standard laser-based systems is limited, restricting its application to specialized Bound Powder Extrusion machines. Alternatively, alloyed copper, containing 1-2% of alloying elements like chromium and zinc, presents a printable option on certain Powder Bed Fusion machines. Although slightly less conductive than pure copper, alloyed variants provide versatility in additive manufacturing processes.


6. Cobalt-Chrome Superalloys


Cobalt Chrome (Co28Cr6Mo) is a superior superalloy recognized for its exceptional biocompatibility, robust strength-to-weight ratio, and resistance to corrosion. It surpasses titanium in density and performance, finding extensive use in hostile environments such as turbines and specialized medical applications. This alloy, predominantly composed of cobalt and chromium, exhibits remarkable tensile strength and resistance to creep, making it a preferred choice for aerospace components and medical instrumentation.


Cobalt Chrome is particularly valued in applications demanding high temperature resilience and corrosion resistance, including turbine engines, industrial machinery, and medical and dental prototypes, showcasing its versatility and reliability in various sectors.


7. Aluminum alloys 


Aluminum alloys are increasingly popular in 3D printing due to their lightweight, high strength, and excellent thermal conductivity. The process involves powder bed fusion techniques like selective laser melting (SLM) or electron beam melting (EBM). These methods enable the production of complex geometries with reduced material waste. Aluminum alloys find applications in aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics industries.


Notable alloys include AlSi10Mg and AlSi7Mg0.6, known for their good mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. Renowned for their remarkable strength-to-weight ratio, these alloys boast exceptional temperature and corrosion resistance, alongside robust fatigue, creep, and rupture strength. However, challenges such as high reactivity and thermal management during printing require careful consideration for successful aluminum 3D printing.


8. Nickel Alloys


The nickel alloy family includes IN625, IN718, IN939, HX, and HAYNES® 282® alloys, crucial for additive manufacturing with EOS metal systems. Each powder undergoes rigorous QA testing and is accompanied by an inspection certificate. EOS offers validated processes tailored to these materials, ensuring consistent part properties.


Moreover, dispersion-strengthened nickel AM powders are developed via the RAM process, enhancing performance in challenging conditions. These powders, infused with ceramic elements, yield superior metal matrix composite (MMC) nickel powders with optimal flow. Available in various formulations, sizes, and shapes, they cater to laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), blown powder directed energy deposition, and other leading additive manufacturing processes. Custom RAM-based formulations are also developed to meet specific alloy property requirements.


In Consluion


In conclusion, metal 3D printing revolutionizes additive manufacturing by offering a versatile array of materials and processes. From stainless steel's durability and corrosion resistance to titanium's lightweight strength, each material serves a unique purpose in various industries. Tool steels provide unparalleled toughness for intricate components, while Inconel® alloys excel in extreme environments like aerospace and chemical processing. Copper offers exceptional conductivity, and cobalt-chrome alloys provide superior biocompatibility and resilience. Aluminum alloys, nickel alloys, and innovative RAM-based formulations further expand the possibilities of additive manufacturing, promising robust, high-performance components across diverse applications.


With ongoing advancements in materials and processes, metal 3D printing, including services like 3D-AM 3D printing services in Malaysia, redefines manufacturing possibilities, driving innovation across sectors.